I’m such a tease: a massive post coming very soon!

That’s right folks, I’ve been working on a really cool, super awesome, fantabulous post for you all this past week.

I’ve been waiting to write a post on the 8 Limbs of Yoga for a while now while I dove into research about yoga, its roots and experiencing the 8 limbs for myself. I have you a post that I will warn you about right now: get a cup of coffee or tea and sit on down, because you will be reading for a while! But honestly, who doesn’t love reading something adequately researched and written in (slightly) witty 21-year-old language? Like the photo above, the post will have shots from a beautiful photo shoot I did last week with the yoga instructor you’ve all heard about this whole semester, Rachael. I’ll also be bestowing some more data visualizations on you, maybe another timeline and some much needed found photographic excellence. Who knows, maybe I’ll even put up another playlist! We’ll see how ambitious I get here (finals are tough).

So if you’re ready, like this post! And send some good vibes my way in the next few days as I finish up my undergrad degree!

Namaste, y’all.

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Data journalism & yoga: an (un)likely pair

Journalism changes day-to-day nowadays, and one of the coolest things about journalism is its delving into data. Comment boxes, open questions and surveys allow us to create visualizations about trends, likes, dislikes, history and basic information. And that’s what I did here: I sent out a survey (which, if you participated, THANK YOU!) and created visualizations out of my answers. Click on the graphs to be taken to a more detailed version; I hope you find these relationships and visualizations as interesting as I have. I will be distributing out another survey soon for my final in my multimedia class (I promise I’ll keep this blog going once the semester is going!), so stay tuned!

View Surveygoers in a full screen map

First, above is a link to a map of the hometowns of 11 of the over 20 people that took my yoga survey. Check it out, and next time you could be on it!

Every bit of my survey data, in a word cloud customized and based on the frequency of the text.

Every bit of my survey data, in a word cloud customized and based on the frequency of the text.

Next, above is a word visualization. The larger the word, the more frequently it came up in the survey questions and answers.

Relationship between practice and benefits in yogaPurple: mental health benefits
Green: physical benefits
Mustard: emotional health benefits

Above: A matrix chart of the relationship between what brought people to practice yoga in the first place (stress management, physical exercise, a spiritual experience) and what the people within these categories felt the best benefit of yoga is.

relationship between yoga practice and benefits

Many EyesGreen: mental health benefits
Blue: physical health benefits
Red: emotional health benefits

Above: A multi-faceted matrix chart detailing the relationship between what brought people to practice yoga in the first place (stress management, physical exercise, a spiritual experience) and what the people within these categories felt the best benefit of yoga is. This relationship is then broken up into categories of what my survey participants think yoga is, a spiritual discipline or a mental/physical fitness program.

yogis and thoughts on yoga in the olympics

Many EyesBlue: I’m confused, doesn’t that defeat the purpose of yoga?
Green: Yoga in the Olympics is an okay idea.
Red: yoga has no place in the Olympics.
Tan: yoga in the Olympics is an awesome idea!

Above: A matrix chart shows the percentages of surveygoers that practice yoga on various levels, and in those percents, what those people thought about the idea of yoga in the Olympics (which is not happening, but what people said was interesting nonetheless).

Setting intentions: What are you accomplishing as you practice?

At the beginning of most practices, you set an intention. That intention may be to gain motivation, refresh your soul, untangle some chords in your brain, calm your nerves, send energy to somewhere, etc. When I began my practice tonight, my intention was to gain some peace of mind. With graduation in just two months, I’m freakin’ out. I’m working on applications to jobs all over the US, and I may have to leave Pittsburgh just when, for the first time in my life, I feel like I belong somewhere. Am I a failure if I stay here? Will I succeed if I go? What if no one wants to hire me? What if I can’t financially support myself? Where is my life going to go? They haunt me, these questions. They haunt my thoughts while I’m awake and my subconscious during sleep. So I walked in tonight with the intention to leave with some peace of mind from all of the insecurities and confusion going on inside me.

After a really great practice, my teacher, Rachael, read from Judith Lasater during savasana:
“The greatest discipline is surrender. So often we confuse ambition with discipline; we think that pushing ourselves to do more proves that we are disciplined. When you practice yoga today or any day, focus instead on how much clarity and discipline is required to let go. Let go of your expectations, let go of what may no longer be possible, let go of your resistance.”

 And then I started crying.

I realized many things at that moment. There are things I can’t control in my life, so why am I trying? I have always said that wherever my life takes me, I’ll go. Why am I freaking out about it now when that moment is upon me? I have been preparing for this moment for the past four years of my life. I’m ready. I’ve always been such a planner, a control freak. But I need to let go. I need to keep doing what I’m doing and let my life pan out the way it’s supposed to. I need to tell myself, “breathe, Camelia. You’re ready.” I need to surrender.

Rachael concluded our practice tonight by saying, “As you take the next few moments to just breathe, imagine what it would feel like if you surrender more often in your life.”

I left with peace of mind.

Namaste. May you all surrender a little more in your lives this week, and always.

8 Reasons Why I Don’t Have Time for Yoga, & why I still practice

Photo from the article "8 Reasons Why I Don't Have Time for Yoga"

Photo source: Alli Akard

8 Reasons Why I Don’t Have Time for Yoga

Remember 7th Heaven, the overly dramatic but oh-so-addicting TV show from the late ’90s into the early ’00s? One of the older girls gave a sermon one time titled: “Where did our Sundays go?” The whole point of her sermon was that Sundays used to be a day people set aside to worship, relax, rest and get ready for the new week. But now, Sunday is the day to catch up, on laundry, on sleep, on household chores. It’s a day for BBQs, drinking beer and watching football, and even shopping. So the reality is, where did our Sundays go? Where did that day go that we all used to take time and reflect? When do we as people take time to relax and, you know, actually be real people instead of workaholic machines?
8 Reasons Why I Don’t Have Time for Yoga kind of reminds me of that (I promise you’ll get it once you read the article).

[Spoiler alert: the 8 reasons have to do with the 8 limbs of yoga.]

In my practice this past Tuesday, Rachel, my teacher, had us lay in savasana (I know, you’re probably thinking ‘wait, at the beginning?!’) and find our breath. “It doesn’t matter if you are a beginner or experienced at this, breathing deeply… is yoga,” she said. I found this really inspiring for some reason. Alli, author of 8 Reasons Why I Don’t Have Time for Yoga, gives us all the reasons why she doesn’t have time for yoga: kids, allergies, always being busy, having her attention pulled in 10 different directions, a lack of sleep on a good day, etc. However, she reminds the readers after all of her reasons why she does yoga: it’s a journey.
Alli writes, “but the reality is that yoga is not something I can master overnight or at any particular stage in my life; it is an ongoing journey that may not even be completed in this lifetime.”
Even if it’s 20 minutes of deep breathing, you are working on yourself. That’s a beautiful thought, right? As human beings, we are all evolving with each day. And as yogis, we are also always evolving. It took me almost a year to do any kind of a decent forward fold. Two weeks ago, I mastered crow pose. And Tuesday I did my first handstand (yay!!). But some days, all we can do is 5 minutes of a sun salutation. But those five minutes are everything. The beautiful thing about yoga is that it can be practiced virtually anywhere, at any time, and it is always shaping and evolving with the yogi. Tuesday night was the first time I got to practice in over a week because of my schedule. I work two jobs on top of my classes, and once the evenings hit and I finally get home, I just don’t have the energy to practice. So Tuesday, I carted my mat around with me to work, then to class, then finally to an hour-long practice filled with core strengthening poses and vinyasas. And although by the time I got to my practice I just wanted to curl up and sleep, that hour was so rejuvenating that I left and came home to do some much needed housework. No matter how long my practice is, I always leave better than when I came in.

And that’s the point of yoga: to spend time being in connection with oneself and ultimately, bettering oneself. At least, that’s just the humble opinion of a young, still wide-eyed yogi.

So, if you don’t have time to read the article (oh crap, you gotta run out and do the five things on your list you didn’t get to do yesterday!) Here’s my favorite passage:

“But the reality is that yoga is not something I can master overnight or at any particular stage in my life; it is an ongoing journey that may not even be completed in this lifetime.

If I wasn’t living the path of yoga every day, I would be completely lost in the thick of all the chaos. Having this methodology to focus on helps me be a overall a better human being. When I do feel out of control or lost and scared, there is a place I can refer to and find some peace.”

Namaste, and may you find your peace this coming week.

Studies show yoga benefits mental health disorders

yoga on the beachWhile it’s a well known fact that yoga is beneficial for the body, new studies are now showing that yoga may help fight major mental health disorders. I think the whole of the yoga community already knew this fact, but to see it published in professional print is something else entirely. As a young yogi, I can honestly say that yoga may have saved my young life, or at least my mental health. Countless personal stories reveal that yoga helps to balance one’s life. That’s crazy to think about, right? The idea that practicing a series of poses can help a person’s physical, mental, social and psychological health is really nuts. But yoga is so much more than cool-looking poses. The first thing a yogi does when he or she starts a practice is frees their mind. Breathing becomes a focus of the mind. Breathing connects the mind to the body, and life starts to fade away. That’s also a crazy thought: letting life fade away for however long the practice is, to work on oneself. It’s selfish, even, taking time out of the day to devote solely to oneself. But, studies now show, the benefits are endless to the practice, including opening up extensive mental progression. It has positive effects on mild depression, sleep complaints and “improves symptoms associated with schizophrenia and ADHD in patients on medication.” The review of the studies found that “yoga influences key elements of the human body,” elements that help out the mind in “similar ways to that of antidepressants and psychotherapy.” While drugs and therapy is expensive, yoga is relatively affordable, and it doesn’t have to be done alone. Not only is yoga great for the body, but its benefits of the mind are of even more importance and recognition.

As yoga has become an international sensation, it becomes apparent now why the attraction is so high: everyday it seems, more benefits are discovered in the 5,000-year-old Indian practice.